Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shanghai Lil for Dim Sum


Ok, I was really making an attempt to try a new Chinese place for lunch, but we went to one, and it was closed, called another, and it was closed too. I guess Mondays aren’t good days for a Chinese lunch. I was really in the mood for Chinese though, so we decided to go back to Shanghai Lil’s and have some dim sum.

I have reviewed it before, and it is one of my haunts for dim sum. I have been there many times, and often even order it for carry out. But I figured hey, it has been awhile, and it was fun because I went with 2 friends who had never had dim sum before.

We ordered shrimp dumplings, dumplings in hot chili oil (not on the dim sum menu, but offered as an appetizer on the lunch menu), spring rolls, shrimp rolls, and the traditional buns (usually filled with pork) but that were stuffed with mushrooms and chicken. They give you a choice of teas-- oolong, green or jasmine and we chose jasmine, which I really like but one of my friends commented on the floweriness of it. I would be happy with any of the teas actually though, as these happen to be all my favorites.

They also brought out a little amuse bouche which was quite unexpected before a meal of little plates, but a nice touch. Our waiter explained that they do this during the week only but that it is a regular thing then. Ours included some sautéed green beans, some cold noodles in a garlicy/peanutty sauce and a little salad.
Then, the plates began arriving. The dumplings in hot chili oil are wonton style (think, the kind that come in wonton soup) dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, scallions and garlic in hot chili oil and served with some sautéed greens alongside. This is one of my favorite things and is an appetizer on the lunch and dinner menus, so no matter what meal I am ordering, I almost always get these. The dumplings are soft, the greens accent them beautifully and the hot chili oil isn’t really very spicy (I find this the case in Chinese in general, if it says “spicy” it isn’t usually really very spicy, which is fine with me, I prefer to taste my food, not burn my mouth). The flavors come together really well.
The other things are more basic—the shrimp dumplings, traditional for any dim sum menu are very good, just basic shrimp inside the dumpling and steamed. No sauce, no need. I like a bit of soy sauce and that’s it.

When I am eating all this soft food (the dumplings), I like to balance it with something crunchy, hence the spring rolls and shrimp rolls (also both available as appetizers at dinner). The spring rolls here are really good, they have the proper proportion of filling to crunch (sometimes there is just way too much filling and the outside isn’t crunchy enough). And there are 2 shrimps in every roll, one at each end, so if you cut it in half (to share say) both are guaranteed a shrimp. I like this. And the outside of the spring roll (and shrimp roll for that matter) are the perfect super crispy, thin shell that I like. Basically, the shrimp roll is the same idea, but just one long prawn wrapped in the same shell. They are served with a sweet and sour sauce, which I am not a huge fan of personally (too sweet for me).

The only thing that I didn’t really like was the steamed bun—these are also very traditional dim sum (like I said usually stuffed with barbequed pork) but I have never been a big fan. This one was better than the usual pork, the filling a bit more interesting, but I just don’t like the wonder bread consistency of these kinds of buns.

Shanghai Lil is definitely one of my favorite places for Chinese, and they also serve a full Japanese menu (including a fairly wide range of sushi). The downside of it is it is a bit more expensive than most Chinese, but I think partly because the quality of ingredients is higher than most. My friends seemed to enjoy it for their first time, and if you haven’t tried dim sum yet, give it a try.

Shanghai Lil
8505 Keystone Crossing
Indy 46240


  1. We're big fans of Shanghai Lil. Have you tried the Shiaolung Bao from the regular menu? They're delicious.

  2. Sorry, I don't like Shanghai Lil's, although I haven't been back for a while. Their dim-sum is mediocre-to-failed (to me) (e.g. wasabi siu mai - bad clash of tastes). I've talked about this place on Chowhound before.